By: Kieran Blake, Sports Staff Writer
Kansas hoists the 2022 NCAA Championship Trophy. (Image Courtesy of Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
It’s March– a time of green rivers and leprechauns, Oscars and pots of gold– and basketball. Beautiful, glorious, March Madness basketball. There’s nothing like the annual NCAA basketball tournament to determine the champion of the college basketball world. March Madness is the most unpredictable event in the sporting world, with upsets all throughout the tournament. Last year, the 15-seeded St. Peter’s shocked the world by upsetting the 2-seeded Kentucky in the first round, the 7-seeded Murray State in the second, and the 3-seeded Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen. The 8-seeded UNC came within three points of the championship. The winningest men’s college basketball coach ever, Duke’s unlovable Mike Krzyzewski, retired after 42 years as head coach of the Blue Devils. What crazy moments will occur this tournament? I guess we’ll just have to relax, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Surprise! No 16 seeds will be beating 1 seeds this tournament. (Sorry UMBC, you’ll have to sit this one out.) No St. Peters-style fairytale win by a 2 seed either. All the 3 seeds are sticking around for the second round as well, as are the 4 seeds and the 5 seeds. However, Miami’s future is up in the air, as starting forward and leading rebounder Norchad Omier suffered an injury against Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals, so if a 12 seed is going to beat a 5 seed, it will be Drake over Miami. The 1-5 vs. 12-16 games will be pretty uneventful, but what about the other 12 games?
This is where the fun begins. The 6-seeded Kentucky, the 2 seed who lost to the 15 seed last year will be looking to bounce back, so they will beat the 11-seeded Providence. However, Pitt, coming off a qualifying win against Mississippi State, will upset the 6-seeded Iowa State, the winner of the Nevada-Arizona State qualifier will knock off the 6-seeded TCU, and NC State will survive and advance against the 6-seeded Creighton. Absolute Madness! All the 7 seeds will win, as will all the 8 seeds aside from Iowa, who will fall to Auburn. (I know that all of these predictions will crumble, but I have to predict something, don’t I?)
After an uneventful first round, not much will happen in the second. All the 1 seeds will win… Oh wait! No they won’t! Coming off a shocking win against Houston in the AAC title game, the 8-seeded Memphis will make headlines again by defeating the 1-seeded Purdue in the second round! (I’m sorry, I just don’t trust Purdue to win anymore.) Two, yes two 2 seeds will be knocked out by 7 seeds– Marquette by Michigan State and Texas by Texas A&M. All the 3 seeds will win, and all the 4 seeds will win except for Tennessee, who will get knocked out by yours truly: Duke.
After upsets galore, the Sweet Sixteen will continue the madness. However, all the favorites will win, aside from one: Duke. (“Celebrate good times, come on!”) Memphis will continue their story by defeating everybody’s least favorite basketball team.
Houston is definitely beating Xavier, because let’s face it, when you think of college sports, you think of Houston well before you think of Xavier. In a bit of a tougher matchup, Alabama overcomes the controversy surrounding All-American Brandon Miller and advances to the Final Four after defeating Arizona. The 2-seeded UCLA kind of upsets the 1-seeded Kansas, but both of these teams are basketball powerhouses this season. No title defense for the Jayhawks here. My dark horse pick Memphis again shreds many brackets (not that anybody will have one anymore) by defeating the 3-seeded Kansas State (tough break for the Sunflower State this round), advancing to the Final Four, and let me defend this pick for a second. Since 2010, a 7+-seeded team has made the Final Four each year with the exception of 2010, 2012, and 2019, with the 7-seeded UConn actually winning the whole tournament in 2014. As the great Michael Corleone once said, “If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can beat anyone.” (Okay, so he actually said something different, but you get the point.)
The team with the best record in college basketball, Houston (Florida Atlantic & Charleston are also 31-3, but their conferences are, to put it lightly, not too good) will fall to the basketball powerhouse that is UCLA. UCLA, the team that won seven-straight titles between 1967 & 1973 and ten titles from 1964-1975, hold the record for most NCAA titles of all time with eleven, and they will be looking to add a twelfth this year. Now, the 1-seeded Alabama take on the 8-seeded Memphis. You’re probably thinking, “Oh, come on, Memphis in the Finals? Give me a break!” And you’re right– about Memphis being in the Finals. The fairytale run of the Memphis Tigers continues into the NCAA tournament finals. Brandon Miller will try all he can, but basketball is a team sport. Miller has some offensive help in the form of double-digit scorers Mark Sears and Noah Clowney, but Memphis has two 17+ point per game scorers in Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams. Statistically, Memphis also has more players (four to one) with 1+ steals per game and the same amount of players (two) with 1+ blocks per game as Alabama. As Tony D’Amato put it, “Life’s this game of inches,” and I think that Memphis will fight for those inches and come out on top against Alabama.
As Herb Brooks puts it, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.” The NCAA title game is the biggest opportunity of them all. And from that opportunity have spawned some of the greatest moments. There’s the iconic photo of NC State coach Jim Valvano running around the court after their shocking victory in 1983. There’s that evil but iconic shot by Duke’s Christian Laettner in 1992. There’s the battle between future rivals and NBA saviors Magic Johnson & Larry Bird in 1979. There’s Michael Jordan’s game-winner against Georgetown in 1982. There’s the 8-seeded Villanova’s Rollie Massamino cutting down the nets after their improbable victory in 1985. And who knows? There could be another this year.
The stage is set: Memphis vs. UCLA, April 3, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Will Memphis do the improbable? Or will UCLA continue their college basketball dominance? And the winner is… (Drum Roll Please!) UCLA! That’s right, despite all their hard work and effort, Memphis will fall to UCLA, the team that has been destined to win championships since John Wooden coached them to their first in 1964. This isn’t a Disney movie. There’s no fairytale ending for Memphis. It was a great run, and it will be memorable, but UCLA will ultimately cut down the nets and hang another banner in the rafters. 67 games, 20 days, and two Al Pacino quotes later, UCLA are your 2023 NCAA Champions.